The result of Tuesday’s Cincinnati mayoral primary was a foregone conclusion – former city council member John Cranley will face Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls in the November election.
But the double-digit lead that Cranley had over Qualls is not good news for Qualls’ ambition to replace Mayor Mark Mallory as Cincinnati’s mayor.
With all of Cincinnati’s 175 precincts reporting late Tuesday night, Cranley had 55.8 percent of the vote to 37.15 percent for Qualls in the unofficial vote count.
Also-rans Jim Berns, a libertarian, had 4.9 percent, while independent Queen Noble had 2.1 percent.
The only good news that could be gleaned from Tuesday night’s results for Qualls was that the turnout in the primary was so very low – only 5.68 percent of Cincinnati’s 201,843 registered voters. The turnout in November, with a council race on the ballot as well, is likely to be much higher; and Qualls’ challenge will be to get her voters to the polls.
It was the lowest turnout in the history of Cincinnati's mayoral primaries, even lower than the 15 percent who turned out on Sept. 11, 2011 - the day of the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C.
If history is a guide, somewhere between 30 and 40 percent of the registered voters will turn out for the November election.
Finishing first in the Cincinnati mayoral primary has not been necessarily been a harbinger of success in the November general election.
In 2001 – the first under Cincinnati’s new system of direct election of the mayor – was held on Sept. 11, the day of the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C.
Turnout was very low – 15 percent – and TV news anchor Courtis Fuller won with 54 percent of the vote, with Charlie Luken, who was serving as mayor at the time, took only 38 percent.
But in the fall election, turnout was considerably higher and Luken was elected over Fuller with 55 percent of the vote.
In 2005, then-city council member David Pepper edged out then-state senator Mark Mallory by a handful of votes in the primary. But there were other well-known names on the primary ballot – council members Alicia Reece and Charlie Winburn.
Mallory picked up most of their votes in the general election and won the mayor’s job with 52 percent of the vote. Mallory was re-elected in 2009 over Republican Brad Wenstrup in a year when there was no primary, because Mallory and Wenstrup were the only candidates who filed for mayor.
Qualls began running for Cincinnati City Council in the 1980s, but was not successful until she broke through in 1991.
Two years later, she was top vote-getter, which, in those days, meant you became mayor – a job that was largely ceremonial then. She was top vote-getter again in 1997 and 1999, serving as mayor for six years.
A native of Tacoma, Washington, her family settled in Erlanger when she was seven years old. She now lives in downtown Cincinnati.
Cranley was appointed to a council vacancy in December 2000 and won election to two-year council terms in 2001, 2003, 2005 and 2007.
In early 2009, he left council because of his involvement in the Incline Village development in East Price Hill. Since the development group was seeking city money, Cranley asked the Ohio Ethics Commission if he had a conflict of interest. The commission said he did; and he resigned from council. Later, Cranley’s development group received $750,000 from the city.
Qualls’ campaign has attacked Cranley in a TV ad for taking the city money, although Qualls voted to award it to his development group.
Cranley’s campaign ran TV ads criticizing Qualls for her support for the parking meter lease and the building of a streetcar.
Cranley, a graduate of Harvard Law School, grew up in Price Hill, but now lives in Hyde Park.
One thing Cranley and Qualls have in common is that they have both run against and lost to U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot, the Westwood Republican, in the First Congressional District.
Cranley did it twice – one in 2000, when he took 43 percent of the vote, and again in 2006, when the race was targeted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Cranley came closer that time, winning 48 percent.
Qualls was Chabot’s opponent in 1998, while she was serving as mayor, and ended up with 47 percent of the vote.